Two Eastman Kodak workers represented by Lipsitz & Ponterio recently received significant settlements for their asbestos-related injuries. Our clients, a machinist millwright and a pipefitter, were previously employed by the Eastman Kodak Company located in Rochester, New York. Both men were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Their principal exposure was to asbestos insulation found on the exterior of mechanical equipment, including pumps and valves. These cases were concerned with the legal issue of a manufacturer’s duty to provide adequate warnings about the hazards of exposure to both interior and exterior components of its products. Under New York state law, equipment manufacturers have a duty to disclose the latent dangers of asbestos exposure to workers who use their equipment. The asbestos- containing exterior insulation on this equipment served two purposes. First, it allowed the equipment to operate effectively at a high temperature. Second, it protected the workers from being burned by high temperature equipment.
In New York, when a lawsuit is filed for negligent failure to warn, as in any other negligence case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a legal duty to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury Becker v. Schwartz, 46 N.Y. 2d 401 (1978). In the cases of both the millwright and the pipefitter, the equipment manufacturers had a duty to warn against dangers resulting from the foreseeable use of their products. Both of our clients were exposed to equipment laden with components containing asbestos. This equipment required the use of asbestos insulation, asbestos packing and asbestos gaskets in order for the equipment to function properly.
The millwright represented by Lipsitz & Ponterio was employed at Kodak for several decades beginning in 1952. His work on pumps required him to disturb the exterior insulation in order to properly maintain and repair the pumps to meet his employer’s specifications. The lawyers at Lipsitz & Ponterio gathered numerous documents proving that the equipment manufacturers in this case knew that workers would be exposed to the exterior insulation on their equipment. Thanks to this vital information, the equipment manufacturers were held responsible for our clients’ illness.
Each client received a substantial settlement to compensate for his exposure to asbestos at Kodak and subsequent diseases.